science + technology news

Software links chatbots to OpenCyc inference engine

April 19, 2004

New software called CyN allows you to talk to the OpenCyc commonsense inference engine from AIML chatbots.

A chatbot is a program with human-like personality that allows for natural-language conversations with computers. OpenCyc is the open-source version of Cyc technology, the world’s largest and most complete general knowledge base and commonsense reasoning engine. AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) is an XML type… read more

This Ain’t Woody Allen’s Orb

April 19, 2004

Proponents of ubiquitous computing hope to build computers into objects that fit naturally into daily life. One application is Ambient Devices’ Orb, a large glowing egg that tracks trends in a variety of subjects (such as stock-market performance) and transmits the information visually.

The idea behind Orb came out of MIT’s Media Lab, where “Tangible Bits” research led by professor Hiroshi Ishii aims to replace computers’ graphical user interface… read more

Wireless Watchdogs: Intelligent Software for Astronauts and their Robots

April 19, 2004

Personal “mobile agent” software will cut down on the amount of time astronauts take relaying information back to Earth, monitor astronaut progress, and automatically contact Earth in case of emergencies.

Sony develops paper-based disc

April 19, 2004

Sony and Tappan have announced a new Blu-Ray-based disc capable of holding 25 GB. It uses 51 percent paper, replacing a polycarbonate plastic substrate.

The new disc promises to be more environmentally friendly and secure when destroyed than traditional discs.

Xerox hopes plastic ink leads to printed chips

April 19, 2004

Xerox researchers have discovered a way to print plastic transistors using a semiconductive ink at room temperature, paving the way for flexible displays and low-cost RFID (radio frequency identification) chips.

The new technique builds on a polythiophene semiconductor, an organic compound that resists degradation in open air better than other semiconductor liquids and also exhibits self-assembling properties.

The researchers found a way to process this material to form… read more

UCLA Geophysicist Warns 6.4 Quake To Hit LA By Sept 5

April 16, 2004

A US geophysicist has set the scientific world ablaze by claiming to have cracked a holy grail: accurate earthquake prediction, and warning that a big one will hit southern California by Sept 5.

The UCLA team — made up of US, Japanese, Canadian, European and Russian experts in pattern recognition, geodynamics, seismology, chaos theory, statistical physics and public safety — says it has developed algorithms to detect earthquake patterns… read more

Googling the genome

April 16, 2004

With the rapidly falling cost of sequencing the human genome, consider a not-too-distant future in which personal genomes are readily available, writes Glyn Moody, author of Digital Code of Life.

For those with relations affected by a serious medical condition, this will conveniently provide them with any genetic test they need. But it will also offer the rest of us information about our status for these and other, far… read more

Searching in the Third Dimension

April 16, 2004

Princeton University professor Thomas Funkhouser and colleagues have put a 3-D search engine on the Web that lets anyone sketch an object using a computer mouse, add a textual description, then search for similar models in design databases.

Here’s how it works: stored CAD designs and entries sketched by users are converted into voxels, which represent the volume of the object at any given point. Then voxel patterns are… read more

Big Bang glow hints at funnel-shaped Universe

April 16, 2004

Could the Universe be shaped like a medieval horn? It may sound like a surrealist’s dream, but according to Frank Steiner at the University of Ulm in Germany, recent observations hint that the cosmos is stretched out into a long funnel, with a narrow tube at one end flaring out into a bell.

It would also mean that space is finite. If you could fly towards the flared end… read more

Universities, research centers retrench after hacks

April 16, 2004

Academic supercomputing labs were targeted by unknown attackers over the last month, compromising servers at the San Diego Supercomputing Center, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Stanford University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and elsewhere.

While the attackers had access to many of the computers that act as nodes on distributed high-performance computing networks, the intruders were more interested in access to computing power than sabotage, laboratory staff maintain.

Author: Mission to moon and beyond will inspire humanity

April 16, 2004

Human exploration of the moon, Mars and beyond will move humanity past terror and war, much like earlier voyages found a new world for Europeans mired in conflict 500 years ago, science fiction author Ray Bradbury told a presidential commission Thursday.

Superantibodies target diseases by entering cells

April 15, 2004

Superantibodies that can bind to targets within cells, rather than on their surface, could lead to a new range of treatments for diseases, InNexus Biotechnology of Vancouver claims.

Superantibodies could be used to target bacteria and viruses (including HIV) inside cells, for instance, or abnormal proteins that turn cells cancerous. In theory, they could do everything that the small molecules of most conventional drugs do, and more.

The… read more

‘Switched on’ muscle stem cells morph to resemble nerve cells

April 15, 2004

Researchers have turned muscle progenitor cells — stem cells that are “committed” to becoming muscle tissue — into cells that look and act like neurons.

Using an artificial gene they created, the researchers “switched on” a panel of genes that are normally silent in the muscle cells, causing them to morph into cells that show biochemical, physiological, and structural properties of neurons.

The researchers say the advance provides… read more

Photo recognition software gives location

April 15, 2004

New photo recognition software on a remote server works out precisely where you are from a digital-camera image and sends back directions that will get you to your destination.

When their system receives an image, it begins by identifying vertical and horizontal lines. Next, it warps the image so that the horizontals are all parallel with each other, and the same for verticals. This transforms the picture into one… read more

Fat stem cells heal broken skulls

April 15, 2004

For the first time, stem cells purified from fat have been used to heal an injury in a living animal.

The Stanford University researchers showed in mouse experiments that adipose-derived adult stromal (ADAS) cells purified from a rodent’s belly fat could be coaxed to heal a skull fracture too large to mend by itself.

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